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Lost And Found?


Yvonne
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Its true, you know. I have found a lot of wisdom and deep insights into my spirituality over the last year and a half. I sometimes wonder, however, what I may have lost.

 

Years ago, when I was attending a somewhat liberal mainline church, I still took much of what I now disbelieve for granted. Never mind that the politics of this church were liberal, the beliefs and practices were still very conservative – particularly the belief in the inerrancy of the bible, and an interventionist male deity who reigned from heaven. Regardless of the beliefs I then held, there was a poignancy to my spirituality. I experienced episodes of grace that I no longer experience. I recall seeing a kind of glow around people I considered to be deeply spiritual as they spoke of things spiritual. I recall a sensation of being magnetically pulled toward another such person as I spoke to him. Another time, as I entered a hall filled with people praying, I felt a kind of presence beyond human beings. These types of experiences happened to me quite regularly.

 

It is true, that, now and again, I'm touched by some sense of the sacred – like the day not to too long ago when I shared I was overcome with gratitude. Yet, this was one day, just one, when I used to experience interludes like this practically every day. A part of me wonders if the previous episodes were the result of of some malfunction of my brain, because it was when I started having atypical migraines and taking medication for them that those experiences stopped. Then I wondered if all religious experiences were like that. I started getting the migraines at about the same time I began going through a very painful spiritual growth spurt. Were they related – or purely coincidental? I also stopped attending any kind of church at that time because I just didn't feel comfortable there. I wondered, was any church better than none? No. I tried several, with a very open mind, and found myself being more and more uncomfortable.

 

Since what I like to call my re-awakening (which, incidentally, followed the fact I no longer needed migraine medication), I find my faith is stronger and my beliefs are more satisfying. I try to practice meditation in the hopes of revitalizing that mystic side of me, and to some extent, it helps. But I'm truly missing that strong inbreaking of the sacred I used to experience. Not only that, but my prayer life (as a thing separate from meditation) is practically non-existent. I miss that simple form of prayer I used to have. I miss the sort of extra-sensory awareness I used to experience. So now my task is to recover a bit of what I'm lost, without losing what I've found.

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Yvonne,

 

I believe i know exactly what you mean. I think whenever one is physically around a group of people who share the same passionate interest, that "glow" and "poignancy" or joy is experienced. Leaving religion aside, i felt that way when i was passionate about flying and involved with like-minded individuals. When i was involved as a member and later Chapter director of a large gold wing motorcycle club, i felt that way. And like you when i was passionately involved with fundamentalists that same feeling of grace and glow and being touched was mostly always present. I don't think it has anything to do with correct or incorrect beliefs.

 

I believe it in the positive group energy experienced when around positive motivated people regardless of their individual religious beliefs. It is a cumulative effect of energy from like-minded individuals.(IMO)

 

To me, spiritual growth is no longer in feelings, though feelings do come. Spiritual growth is more in unlearning, deconstruction, deprogramming and finding knowledge itself presenting itself as a self-evident truth. Certainly, when i think of those days and times and the abundance of good feelings it seems as if something is lost. Then i am reminded that my rest is in the assurance that what has started this journey is well able to finish it and it doesn't rest in feelings or the concepts of men.

 

Joseph

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To me, spiritual growth is no longer in feelings, though feelings do come. Spiritual growth is more in unlearning, deconstruction, deprogramming and finding knowledge itself presenting itself as a self-evident truth. Certainly, when i think of those days and times and the abundance of good feelings it seems as if something is lost. Then i am reminded that my rest is in the assurance that what has started this journey is well able to finish it and it doesn't rest in feelings or the concepts of men.

 

Joseph

 

While I agree with what you've said, I still feel a loss, and it really isn't so much about "good feelings", though that's part of it. I feel I'm living my spirituality completely in within the intellectual, thinking part of me. Please understand, I'm so very glad I found that thinking part of religion. Yet, up until a few years ago, I would have considered myself a mystic. Mysticism is not about feeling good - many times it can be very, very dry. Its just that I seem to have stopped doing those practices that I feel made me a mystic, and I miss them. Its my fault, totally. I chose to follow the thinking, reasoning path. I do not chose to move from it. I do feel, however, that I can choose to merge the path of thinker with the path of the mystic.

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I have been accused of not placing much value in reason and more in subjective experiences so i think i know what you mean. It seems to me one can only go so far in the journey with reason and intellectual study and will hit a brick wall. Myself, i would favor the mystic. Perhaps it would be good for you to put more emphasis on that path?

 

Joseph

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After all a mystic is - "someone who believes in the existence of realities beyond human comprehension"

 

That would also be my experience so while reason and intellect have their place in this world, it seems to me, our real existence is beyond that which is seen. Human life is at times very difficult and is often in uncharted and fearful territory for the one on a journey. What other more positive alternative do we have than to rest in the knowledge (or trust) that we are more than meets the eye and are destined not to be lost but rather to be found?

 

Just musing...

 

Joseph

PS Your thread title here reminded me of something Jesus is recorded saying. "One has to lose their life to find it" Losing can be rather painful, lonely, frustrating and at times hostile. Perhaps that, in the end, also includes our intellectual knowledge, thinking part and reasoning which will perish with the using and only our mystical part remains?

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First, I think it is natural and normal for us to go through what some call "dry spells", times when one feels such a dought in one's soul, one's spirit feels so parched, and our emotions seem to have become flattened and numbed, it can feel as if we've lost something, lost our connectedness to something, lost our spiritual anchor. I think there are stages in our growth, and things were are confornted with in life, that for whatever reason, we either must, or best, do so in such a time of spiritual dryness. Perhaps is a part of what has been described by St. John of the Cross as the dark night of the soul, and the dark night of the spirit. It can truly feel like, 'yeah, though I walk through the valley of death.."

 

I think too, especially relevant to the timing and circumstances you describe, what was going on in your religious life connected to this, that any of us that do begin to become aware of a falsity within our accepted beliefs, confronted with evidence of our having been in a state of delusion, it strike hard at our self confidence, our sense of security, not only in all other of our beliefs, but our very self competency in determining what to believe or not. Keep in mind that for some, when they discern the inconsistency of their religious beleifs system with reality, that blow can strike so hard they reject, deny, the very existence of God.

 

That spiritual energy and beliefs are not the same or even directly connected, is, i think a good observation. Yvonne, you mention you do not "do" the things you've found in the past helped move you toward a more mystical state, and I can relate to that very much. What is interesting is that I used to "do" them even before I knew WHAT it was I was "doing" it seems more so than I "do" them now. I can remember being drawn, as if by some invisible "power", progressively deeper into mystical states through frequent and lengthy sessions of meditation and prayer, thirsting insatiably for music rich in tones and rythyms and chants that drew me ever deeper. That such periods were accompanied by other things, such as changes in my diet, both in type and quantity, changes in sleep and activity patterns, were merely coincidental to me, until I discovered sources of information about such things as mystics, spiritual experiences, even primitive shamanism traditions. It was as I read about shamanism, that I recognized I had actually been experiencing spontaneous "callings" to "spirit walks," what has been described in many cultures as a "spirit quest."

 

That I came to these state entirely without prior exposure to or information about such things only reinforced my confidence and faith in the "reality" of such experiences, and of a realm of spiritual energy into which we humans exist within and might at times reach more deeply into, to drink more fully of the life-giving, sometimes intoxicating nectar of 'spirit'. Any wonder alcoholic beverages are commonly refered to as 'spirits', for in truth I had sampled being 'drunk on spirit'.

 

So what of these dry times? I can only share what seems in my own experience much involved with that.

 

When the first 'dry stretch' hit me after my intoxicating period of 'spirit quest', it was awful! I was desperate, an addict deprived and in withdrawal! I would slip incognito into AOG churches to join into their praise and worship, plug into their collective spiritual energy, and when I suceeded, and was able to join my energy with theirs, and "do" within myself what I can only call "power up," the result was often incredible! Not only for me, but them, as well....often all planned order of their service disintegrated, dissmissal time came and went unnoticed, and by the time I decided to leave hours later, stepping over prone bodies scattered, weeping or just basking in spiritual bliss, all over the floor, I would chuckle to myself as the astounded pastor and others still standing looked about in stunned amazment, trying to figure our what had just happened.

 

However, I learned a very important thing about that....it only "worked" when I felt accepted, when others were at least neutral, about me and my presence. It did happen that either because someone "connected" the coincidence my presence to these occasionally unusually 'lively' events, or that because my very differering beliefs and views became known, that "welcome" was gone, so too went my being able to connect into, join into, the "collective energy" of that place. What I'm saying here, is that at ANY LEVEL we are able to connect, join into, the collective spiritual energy of those we are around, we can only do so when there is acceptance on the more conscious, mental and emotional levels.

 

As I came to feel more and more distanced from those forms of fundamentalism religion and attitudes, mentally and emotionally, I to the same degree "lost" that ability to slip in and plug in there anymore. It was not only others' perception and acceptance of ME, but mine of them, that mattered! Ouch! That is one hard and painful lesson about the command to love!

 

So I now try to direct my time, energy, where I go and who I go around, who I communicate and interact with, to the most positive environments and people. And try to work harder at accepting and loving others as they are. I don't always suceed, being honest. But I know now that so much of my own spiritual well-being depends on CONNECTEDNESS with others, the more mutual that sense of connectedness, the better. For that, anything I can do to promore that is toward my own sense of well being and sense of the spiritual.

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I don't have an answer. I am in a similar spot. It has suggested that we make new rituals and that we reinvigorate the old. I would go to a praise service if I didn't have to listen the preaching and there were no altar calls during the singing. I like singing the songs and ignoring the theology.

 

My ex is open to any moment where ritual that might enhance an experience or strengthen one in a time of difficulty. In response to her questions I chose to take a rose to every one of my 39 radiation treatments several years ago. Some people bought the rose for me. I gave the roses to personnel, etc. That ritual tied the experience up in a nice package. :D

 

Dutch

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Dutch,

 

I think you've exactly hit upon what I've been thinking. While my faith isn't necessarily dry (I've experienced that often enough to know when it happens I can wait it out), its dull. Dull as in not sharp, not dull as in boring. I have, in the past, feared that if I lost the reasoning path, I would become what I fear - a fundamentalist. :rolleyes: Kidding aside, having opened my mind to intellect and spiritual truths, I will not close myself to either one. However, I do find that I need to re-invent some sort of ritual to take me back to the place where it is okay to admit story, myth, and symbol back to my prayer time.

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I lived a very intense life as a monk and when I left, I ran into my intellect and rationalizations. I developed this part of my mind, but soon started to feel a yearning for the spiritual intensity. I continued to meditate in a diluted manner through out this time, and the spiritual yearning continued and brought back the interior life. I was walking the path everyday, trying and analyzing the texture, where it was going and the way I was traveling, I still mediate, but realized this is not a path, but a just a blink to transcend my thinking. Thanks to Mike I am still in supernatural the transcendence mode.

 

It is 1:10 in Reno, my wife a swing shift dealer at the Nugget Casino just came home and told me the Hells Angels and the Vago motorcycle gangs had a gunfight right in front of her table. Blink and once again we are back in the physical.

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Soma,

 

Thank you so much for sharing that.

 

Sometimes, things make more sense to me at an intuitive level, rather than a rational one and words fail me. I am re-reading “When the Well Runs Dry” by Thomas H. Green. I realized it isn't so much that I'm needing what us Catholics call “consolation”, as I'm not allowing the awareness of the divine presence to enter into my life. After all, how can I expect the well to give up its water if I neglect to let down the bucket! I think that is something learning about Buddhism has helped me with in practice. For a while, I was so obsessed with knowing, I forgot to experience.

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Yvonne, We spend a lot of time searching for the meaning of life especially after some drastic event. I know I have. My wife last night had a rude awakening in that gunfight. She was on the ground huddled up in her thoughts without any meaning for death and violence. She was experiencing life under a twenty-one table. Her awareness increased as she made decisions to save her life. I like the stories and details she told of her fellow workers who thought of their fellow workers in the midst of danger. One gang member came up and escorted the casino workers to a safe place. He was standing but had them crawl to get out of danger. It seems the universe is built to respond to our individual consciousness as we respond to revelations that take us to another level or safe room, as Bob Dillan said in a song "Give us shelter from the Storm"

 

The baby Jesus is within us and needs to come outside and play. We need to not be so serious and I also think like you stated that Buddhism can help Christians with this act to stop searching for meaning long enough so life can be experienced in meaning. I feel in Christianity we were mislead to think we will experience Eternity when we die. Eternity is now, along with past, present and future which is also happening at this moment. The good thing is we can sit in silence or just be our pure selves without the necessity of a gunfight to bring us to the present moment.

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As I think back, though, I have realized it often WAS those 'gun fight moments' that gave me my initial glimpses into the realms of possibility for entering into some deeper level of awareness...in those stunning instants, when time seems to stand still, events transpiring in split seconds seem to slow down into long minutes, as if being experienced in slow motion...there is in such incidents, for many of us, I think, the introduction to something other than our ordinary everyday states of consciousness. I suspect it was even such incidents, the most intense of them in which I even lost conscious awareness, possibly even having had some "near-death" experiences as a baby and very young child, that my mind first discovered the way into unconscious levels.

 

Jenell

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